As Jared Shuster struggled throughout his first two seasons at Wake Forest, many pro clubs wrote him off. Shuster had shown a solid fastball-changeup combination and had improved in wood-bat summer leagues. However, the lefty from New Bedford, Mass. surprised many and shot up draft boards in his shortened 2020 season.
MLB Draft Profile
Shuster had showcased his pure stuff in previous years but had struggled with command. Over his first two years in Winston-Salem, he walked 12.6% of batters faced. However, even in just four starts before cancellation, Shuster was commanding the zone much better while striking out hitters more than ever before, to the tune of a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 10.75, up from 2.54 his sophomore year. In his last start of the season, the southpaw helped lead the Demon Deacons to a walk-off win over #2 Louisville, limiting one of the top offenses in the nation to just one run over 7 ⅓ innings, striking out 13 and walking just one.
He was one of three upperclassman ACC arms to surprise in 2020, along with Duke’s Bryce Jarvis and NC State’s Nick Swiney. However, Shuster’s drastic improvement in command and confidence came out of nowhere to impress many scouts and organizations.
One reason for Shuster’s rapid improvement over the last year has been an uptick in fastball velocity. After sitting around 88-92 MPH early on in college, improved mechanics and strength saw his four-seamer jump up to 92-94, topping out at 97. Shuster has found success using that fastball up in the zone, pairing it nicely with his devastating changeup.
That changeup, widely considered his best offering, has generated great swing-and-miss over his college career. The pitch sits around 80-82 MPH, more than 10 MPH slower than his fastball. Since joining the Demon Deacons staff, Shuster has developed it to the point that he can throw it in any count. Tunneling extremely well with his fastball, its sharp movement down-and-away to righthanded hitters allows the 6-3, 210 lb. southpaw to keep hitters off-balance and miss bats consistently.
Whether he can consistently command the strike zone remains to be seen. However, his drop from 5.2 to 1.4 BB/9 over his 2019 summer and shortened 2020 season bodes well for the likely fourth-rounder.
Although Jared Shuster has proven himself as a high-level college arm, he won’t have an easy road to the majors. In his time at Wake Forest, Shuster developed a low-80s breaking ball as a solid third pitch. However, he has not shown particularly great ability to spin the baseball consistently, crucial for any long-term starter.
Some organizations might also be wary about his inconsistency throughout college. Despite his success this spring and in past summer leagues, his 6.79 ERA and high walk rate in his first two NCAA seasons left much to be desired.
Shuster’s high-intent, high ¾ delivery is also not particularly clean. Some teams might view this as a sign of injury risk, but his strong lower half and mobile frame should make it work.
MLB Player Comp
Jared Shuster compares best to former Minnesota Twins and New York Mets ace Johan Santana. Although the young lefty has yet to show the consistent ability to locate all his pitches that propelled Santana to four All-Star appearances and two Cy Young awards, many similarities are there.
Both feature a fastball in the low-to-mid-90s, living up in the zone with a riding four-seamer. Additionally, Shuster’s low-80s, diving changeup profiles very similarly to the pitch that took Santana to new heights. Shuster also mixes in a sinking two-seam fastball at times. Later on, in his injury-shortened career, Santana used this sinker to effectively get consistent ground balls.
If Shuster can continue to develop his breaking ball and keep commanding the baseball as he did this spring, he will have ample opportunity to contribute at the big-league level.
Sources: MLB.com, Prospect Pipeline, Perfect Game, GoDeacs.com, Baseball-Reference
Embed from Getty Images